Saturday, January 14, 2012

Transaction Reaction: The Yankees' New Rotation

In a matter of minutes, the Bronx Bombers negotiated a major trade for Michael Pineda and signed free agent Hiroki Kuroda. Bombers and the Japanese haven't combined for this big of a news story since......(edited due to a blatant lack of cultural sensitivity).

These moves addressed and then erased the only doubts about New York's roster for 2012. Many seemed to think the Yankees were content to huddle just under the salary cap and wait for next years' free agent class to address their pitching needs (Cain, Greinke, etc.) These moves immediately push the Yankees to the top of the power rankings in my book, as the middle and back end of their rotation just shifted from being an Achilles heel to one of the biggest strengths of the ball club. Keep in mind they also still have Burnett, Freddy Garcia and Phil Hughes to battle for the fifth spot. This is crucial because they will have two additional pitchers who can step in immediately for spot starts rather than relying on unproven youngsters. This also might give them some time to work with Burnett and see if he can regain his form from a few years ago.

-First, the trade. The Yankees traded Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi to obtain Michael Pineda and Jose Campos, a hard-throwing prospect. How good is Michael Pineda? Well, Pineda was good enough to make the All-Star team as a rookie last year. He also gets his outs by striking out a TON of hitters, which is crucial if he's going to pitch well in the New York Launching Pad. I've heard that Hector Noesi has huge upside, which may eventually make him as good as Pineda. However, I've never seen him pitch and the Yankees have a history of vastly overrating their own prospects (see: Joba). Jesus Montero is also a big time prospect, and he seems like he will end up being an elite bat. The challenge for the Mariners will be whether to keep him at catcher or to put him at first base. Either way, it seems like each team got what they wanted, and on the surface it looks to be a reasonably fair deal.

-Then, the free agent signing. Hiroki Kuroda is a phenominal pitcher when he is healthy. However, his injury history has limited his innings load. This works out pretty nicely for the Yankees given their new found depth. I already mentioned that they have 6 or 7 decent option for 5 spots, so they can use Kuroda when he is healthy, and use Phil Hughes or AJ Burnett if not. I love the look of the new rotation, and Kuroda brings some talent and a different look to the middle of their rotation. I can't imagine how awkward it would feel trying to hit against CC Sabathia one day, and then attempting to regain your timing against Kuroda the next day. The only possible downside to this deal is that Kuroda is an aging, contact pitcher who is used to playing in Los Angeles, which is a very favorable pitching environment. For context, to translate Kuroda's numbers from LA to his new park in New York, you'd have to adjust his stats by an incredible 45% (according to Stat Corner's park effects data). That would push his ERA closer to 4.30 or 4.40. Yankees fans can breathe easy though, because Kuroda does induce a high number of ground balls, and those don't often fly over the fence.

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